Traditionally, we met our mate at home. The family took care of matchmaking and if not, there was always our church, our friends, and that high school (or 6th grade) sweetheart. Now, we can’t even assume that a friend will introduce us to the love of our life.
You can see below that meeting mates online and at bars and restaurants is trending way upward:
And for same sex couples, the online trend is even more dramatic:
Should we care that online dating is displacing more traditional matchmaking?
The New Ways We Find Partners
Fifty or sixty years ago, we could have drawn a circle around our neighborhood to locate where and how we find a mate. The matchmaking process was closely related to the family, the church, and our schools. Consequently, it was likely that a couple had the same religion and culture,
Now though, we are close to 30 when we marry instead of our early 20s. Having moved away from where we grew up, we live in urban areas where the internet, bars and restaurants provide an opportunity to meet people. As a result, the internet is especially displacing the more personal, less efficient ways of searching for a mate and also helping individuals who faced “thin dating markets” with fewer participants and costly local barriers.
Our Bottom Line: Marriage Markets
Nobel prize winning economist Gary Becker (1930-2014) tells us that marriage involves a lot more than love. Instead, he suggests that people compete for mates in marriage markets because they expect to “raise their utility level above what it would be were they to remain single.” According to Becker, like all markets, marriage is about supply and demand.
On the supply side, we can find individuals with certain characteristics–maybe age range, hair color, body type, religion–who are available for a relationship. Similarly, on the demand side of the market are men and women who, seeking a mate, will be more likely to respond when the supply side has the characteristics they seek.
And (happily) researchers have concluded that a less personal search for a mate will not diminish relationship satisfaction: